World News

IAEA chief calls on Iran to reciprocate U.S. moves

A general view shows the plenary hall at the beginning of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting in Vienna November 27, 2008. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Iran should reciprocate recent overtures by the Obama administration to discuss its nuclear programme, Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Monday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in remarks published on Friday his country favoured dialogue with world powers over its nuclear programme and would soon give its official response to an invitation for talks.

“I have been telling my Iranian friends that they must reciprocate (the U.S. opening),” ElBaradei told a news conference in Beijing. “I am very much supportive of the new approach and I hope it will work.”

The IAEA, the United Nations’ global nuclear regulator, has wrestled with Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, especially its efforts to enrich uranium, which can be a route to refining the fissile material for atomic weapons.

Iran says it is developing enrichment technology for peaceful energy.

ElBaradei has also often clashed with the Bush administration over what he saw as its policy of threatening Iran, and has said he supports the fresh U.S. stance on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said this month they would ask European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Iran to a meeting to find “a diplomatic solution” to the long-running dispute.

President Barack Obama has departed from his predecessor George W. Bush’s refusal to contemplate direct talks with Tehran as long as Iran goes ahead with uranium enrichment. But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the administration remains firm on demanding that Iran suspend enrichment.

The relationship and prospect for talks have since been complicated by Iran’s decision to sentence an Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi on spying charges.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Writing by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Nick Macfie